March 06, 2019

Winning Merchandise

I'm at Eddie Bauer, and folks from the "brand marketing team" enter my office.

They want to mess around with the catalog.

"If we can just add eight pages of new stuff to the catalog we can really reach out to younger customers and protect our brand."

They got their eight pages.

Those eight pages performed at less than half the productivity as the rest of the catalog.

Guess who's fault it was that the catalog didn't perform well?

At Nordstrom, retail folks wanted to put stuff in email campaigns that had no reason to be in email campaigns. The stuff got in the email campaigns. Those campaigns performed 20% worse than the baseline average. Retail folks weren't blamed for sub-standard performance.

I first learned about the importance of Winning Merchandise at Lands' End. We reviewed every catalog ... marketing, creative, inventory, merchandising, finance. One of our analysts put together a compelling story ... if two catalogs were equally merchandised, the catalog with winning items at the front of the catalog significantly outperformed the catalog with the same winning items in the back of the catalog. All things being equal, show the customer the winners, now.

I worked with a large retail brand. A new Leadership team took control over this brand. This Leadership Team HATED the winning merchandise being sold. "Outdated". "Frumpy". They killed the winners.

Guess what?

The demand that would have been generated by winning items disappeared.

New items did not succeed. Customers just vetoed them. And customers had no winners to buy. So customers just stopped buying. Not 100% of demand, but the 15% required to collapse a brand.

I had more than twenty-five years of data to prove that winning merchandise mattered deeply. But one consulting project a few years ago caused the concept of Winning Merchandise to be included in The Great Eight. A retail brand, destroyed because Winning Merchandise were sent to the curb.

Don't kill your winners before they deserve to be killed.

Your winners contribute a disproportionate share of profit and customers.

My Influences:
  • Audience = CMO Nordstrom.
  • Awareness = Duluth Trading Company.
  • Acquisition = Jim Fulton and Eddie Bauer Home.
  • Welcome Program = Eddie Bauer Home, B2B Brand With A Great Program.
  • Anniversary Program = Nordstrom Anniversary.
  • Optimization Program = IBM/Lands' End, Client With Brilliant Website Personalization.
  • New Merchandise = Bankrupt Client.
  • Winning Merchandise = Failed Retail Brand.

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